We caught up with this young and emerging YouTuber to know about her creative process and this is how the tête-à-tête unfolded.
Ques: Tell us about yourself?
I am Farheen Farid, a full-time Research Scholar and a part-time YouTuber from Kashmir who loves to read, paint, bake and day-dream. Two months ago, I started my own YouTube channel and uploaded my first ever video on 15th April 2020, amidst the nation-wide lockdown due to the outbreak of an uncontrolled and raging pandemic. My channel is called ‘Let’s Get Dough’ing’ and it’s all about food. I mostly post easy recipes that anyone can recreate with simple kitchen tools and basic ingredients.
Ques: Why did you choose baking?
Well, it might sound a little funny because as I was growing up I had a fear of working with fire and knives, so cooking never really worked for me. Baking on the other hand always interested me, partly because I didn’t have to light fire nor did I have to use knives for anything except cakes. The day I baked my first cake was the day I realized I was made for this. It wasn’t perfect but I was overwhelmed by the response of my family and felt even more tempted to explore this field and my capabilities as a baker along the way and fell in love with it. Baking has always been therapeutic for me. It is like magic. If you’ve ever baked bread in your life and watched it transform and rise from coarse ingredients to a piece of beauty, you will know what I mean. Isn’t it just magical? I don’t follow rules and do it the way it works best for me. My approach to baking has always been relaxed and casual. Baking for me has always been synonymous with love, care and family bond.
Ques: Who is & has been your inspiration?
My family has been my inspiration. The smile and satisfaction on their faces are what motivates me and keeps me going. They are my biggest supporters and critics. I improve and rework on my recipes according to their likes and preferences. I have grown watching my Mom cook delicious food. My Grandma baked the best walnut & vanilla sponge cake and dry fruit semolina cake ever in her old round oven (I still have that with me). Binge-watching cooking and cake shows, baking videos and following food blogs has been a treasured hobby.
Ques: What made you start your own YouTube channel?
This was an unplanned venture. I just wanted to record and share the recipes I loved with everyone and reach out to those who wanted to try different recipes but never really felt motivated or were too scared to do so. My brother came with the idea of starting a YouTube channel. It was a great opportunity to reach out to more and more people who wanted to learn new skills and hone their old hobbies in the lockdown. It is in the lockdown that I myself felt motivated to start a channel which I otherwise would never have done, owing to my busy work schedule and unavailability of time. I felt that my videos would resonate with people as my content was mostly based on affordable and easily available ingredients. To be honest, I have only recorded videos of all those things that my family and I craved to have in the lockdown. I treat my followers and viewers as my extended family. YouTube is a direct interactive platform where you are criticised, appreciated and approached openly and that is what I love about this medium.
Ques: How much time does it take to shoot a video?
Shooting a video doesn’t take much time. However, preparing yourself for the video takes time; you got to make sure you are not rushing for ingredients in the middle of the video. Also, all the steps including editing the video, writing down the recipe, uploading it and then finally promoting it across social media platforms is a time-consuming process. I think here in Kashmir, slow speed Internet is a big limitation for aspiring YouTubers. With the current broadband speed, a five-minute-long video takes about 5 hours to get uploaded on YouTube.
Ques: Can you give us tips on making a YouTube channel popular?
Just be honest with your content, don’t push yourself too hard, don’t lose hope and keep trying. Promote your videos on different social media platforms and stay grounded. Success will come gradually. My channel is only 2 months old and it has become so much more than I ever imagined and has brought creativity and joy into my life. However, I still feel that the things that have worked well for me, might not work for you or anyone else. Everyone has to learn by doing, understand their target audience and improvise accordingly.
Ques: Did you go to a culinary school? If no, would you like to, one day?
No, I have never been to one because I never really got the time to do so. Yes, I will definitely once I am dome with my PhD. I am just an amateur part-time home-baker who loves to share all she knows with everyone (which is like a small drop in the ocean). I’ve never really made perfect cakes or pieces of bread, nor do I endorse perfection. Cooking/ baking for me is only about sharing love and spreading smiles. My cakes also sink in the middle, my bread dough doesn’t always rise, there are days when I over bake my pieces of bread and it is alright as long as you are learning from your mistakes and experiences.
Ques: What is your favourite cuisine?
Do I have to pick one? I have too many favourites. I love Kashmiri and Middle Eastern cuisine the most. But that doesn’t mean I love Italian, Chinese, Thai or Indian/Pakistani any less. Well, I think I love food in general and I love to try out different dishes from across different cuisines.
Ques: Which bakeries do you recommend in Kashmir?
I love to have traditional baked treats from the local bakeries/ Kandurs. I genuinely feel nothing can beat that. A lot of bakeries and cake houses have come up in the recent past across Kashmir. All of them have something unique to offer.
But I still crave for the classic walnut tart from Moonlight Bakery- Dargah; coconut cookies from JeeEnn; chocolate fudge from Hattrick; assorted cookies and cakes from Crème bakery and LeDelice; cream rolls from Shalimar Bakers and the list goes on and on. Apart from these classics, I love Sweet Treats by Tanya’s walnut and banana loaf and all her cakes.
Ques: Could you please share some baking tips?
The most important tip for a successful baking attempt is to have a positive attitude towards baking and keep trying until you succeed.
• This one’s for areas with a colder climate like Kashmir- to instantly raise the bread dough, heat up the oven for about 15 minutes, switch it off and place the bowl containing the dough inside it and watch it rise without fail.
• If you struggle with making buttercream frosting for cakes, decorate your cakes with chocolate ganache as it is easy to work with and you can change its consistency as per your requirement and preference.
• Always grease your baking tins and trays. I would recommend using a good quality parchment paper.
• Always pre-heat your oven for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. Don’t feel tempted to open the oven door while baking as it will ruin your cakes, cupcakes, pieces of bread and probably everything.
• Invest in a good oven; the microwave is not a substitute for an oven. Any good quality and economical OTG works well.
Ques: Did you encounter any challenges during this journey? How did you tackle them?
Every new journey comes with its own challenges. First of all, to begin with, I didn’t know anything about the art of making videos while baking/cooking and editing them has been and is still a task. My brother has helped a lot with editing and online promotions. My parents have been an important part of this journey, from taking risks and bringing home a list of ingredients I handed them over every other day during the lockdown to helping me strike a balance between my work life and YouTube. I am happy with how Kashmiri markets are changing; there was a time when we hardly got any bakeware here. I remember years ago I got all my cake tins, parchment paper rolls and compound chocolates from Delhi. We’ve come a long way to where we are today and I absolutely love that.
Ques: What are your views on artisanal pieces of bread of Kashmir?
A place is known by its culture and traditions and breads form an important identity of that. Breads have sustained life throughout ages and across boundaries amidst wars, economic crises, epidemics, and natural disasters. It is not just a food of necessity but a work of art and our local bakers here are nothing less than artists and craftsmen. Kashmir has its own variety of breads to offer that form an essential part of every household here. From Girda, Lawasa, Kulcha to Tel-wor, Bakirkhani, Krip (the list is long); it is hard to choose a favourite. Local bakeries here are social spaces and emblems of culture that convey a sense of oneness and exhibit the spirit of community bonding.
Ques: What is your message to all aspiring YouTubers?
Create engaging content. Your audience will direct you and your instinct will guide you. Don’t overburden yourself. Do it as long as you are enjoying doing it. You’ll always find all kinds of people here, especially those who are so full of negativity that they will try to pull you down every step of the way. Stay focused, stick to your principles, handle criticism with grace and keep moving forward. It is important to understand that your recipes will not work for everyone and you cannot cater to everyone’s expectations. And moreover, cooking/ baking is all about trying out different recipes and sticking to the ones that you love.
As is evident from the conversation we had with this upcoming YouTuber, we see this medium gaining importance and popularity as we come to terms with the new normal of social distancing and minimal contact interactions. YouTube serves as an effective bridge for two way communication between content creators and viewers. This democratic platform and the level playing field it offers to express one’s creativity is here to stay and we only see it growing in future.
(Adaptation of a conversation with “Farheen Farid” Edited by “Tanya RIgzin”)
SOURCE: I can never claim a recipe to be mine. Just like folk songs and stories, recipes cannot be owned and claimed. - Farheen Farid